CHICAGO -- A dedication ceremony downtown marked the start of the inaugural Marine Week this morning in front of approximately 500 people at Daley Plaza.
The week-long event is an opportunity for Chicagoans to meet the individuals who make the Marine Corps, said Chicago native Brig. Gen. Melvin G. Spiese, commanding general, Training and Education Command, in Quantico, Va.
"The idea of Marine Week is to get the major cities in America exposed to the Marine Corps," said Spiese. "We couldn't find a better place to kick this thing off. We are America's Marine Corps."
The 30-minute ceremony began with the playing of the National Anthem by the Twentynine Palms Marine Band from California, followed by a city proclamation read by Mayor Richard M. Daley.
"I'm Alderman Balcer now, but I'll always be Pfc. Balcer and I'm proud of it," proclaimed James A. Balcer, a former Marine, Vietnam veteran and now a Chicago alderman.
During the week, Marine Corps demonstrations throughout the city of more than 2.8 million will include martial arts, boxing, band performances, weapons training for police departments and volunteer clean-up efforts.
"This is a Marine Corps town, it’s a very popular part of the military here," said Daley. “You’ll see it all week, there is a great history of Marine Corps families in Chicago."
During the ceremony, Spiese and Daley handed out Marine Week pins to the parents of fallen Marines from Chicago.
Sgt. Maj. Anthony Carter, from Chicago-based 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, was also honored for 30 years of exemplary service to the Chicagoland community.
The Marine Corps is an institution of great character that wants the people of Chicago to have a sense of confidence that their sons and daughters will be well taken care of if they decide to join the Corps, said Spiese.
There have been eight Medal of Honor recipients and 27 general officers from Chicago in the history of the Corps.
“Today’s event is fantastic, it’s great,” said Bill Nolan, assistant chief of the courts and chief of the Daley Center. “The Marine Corps is a great tradition and it’s an honor to have them here. A day like this makes everyone wish they were a Marine.”